A Letter from Scott McElhinney

Scott McElhinney is our adviser for the German Study Abroad Program

Dear Student:

Why Study in Germany? To learn all about this great nation and its fascinating culture–its history, music, intellectuals, scientists, sports, politics, reunification, environmentalism, food, beer, wine, etc. And of course, for its rich language and literature.

While many Germans speak English, very few Americans know German well enough to carry on a conversation, let alone carry out serious academic pursuits. UCEAP gives you opportunities to do both. And what’s unique and helpful about studying abroad via UCEAP (UC’s very own program) is that all your financial aid goes with you, and your courses and grades transfer back automatically to your Cal transcript.

Plus, Germany is one of the least expensive UCEAP programs in Western Europe and you can apply for scholarships to help you pay for it. So take a look at these brief descriptions of the various options in Germany and see which one fits your interests. Then go to the Berkeley Study Abroad website for all the details and an application checklist.

The International Summer School at Free University in Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin) allows students with any level of German to enroll in two courses–either two language courses, two subject matter courses (mostly taught in English), or one of each. This option is open to sophomores through graduate students with a GPA of 2.8. The application deadline is in early February.

Another summer option in Germany is UCEAP’s new “Engineering for Sustainability program at the University of Applied Sciences in Munich. Take project-based engineering courses that include lab experiments and simulations and visits to global companies headquartered in Munich. Courses are geared toward mechanical, automotive, electrical, industrial, and environmental engineering, plus entrepreneurship and German language. Open to Juniors and Seniors, this option requires no prior German. 2.85 minimum GPA. Application deadline is in early January.

Don’t know a word of German? Studied 1-3 semesters of German already? Then consider the Berlin European Studies (BEST) program at Free University in Berlin. You’ll focus on courses taught in English about Berlin, Germany, and the European Union, plus take a German language course as well. No prior German is required (and no more than German 3 is allowed). A GPA of 2.85 is required; sophomores through seniors may participate. You can live in a homestay or in a studio apartment in the same building with other UC or American students. Apply in early December for fall; early April for spring.

So you’d like to do an old-fashioned junior year abroad in Germany? No problem! Semesters are available, too, and senior year works for many students as well. You can study at the Technical, Free, or Humboldt universities in Berlin.

If you want to do this “immersion” option, you can either take up through German 4 by the end of the spring semester before you want to go with UCEAP for the year or fall semester, or you can take up through German 2 or 3 by the end of the spring semester before you want to go and participate in the Pre-Intensive Language Program (pre-ILP) in July in Berlin to learn the rest of second year German. Then you’ll be ready to enter the Intensive Language Program (ILP) that all participants must take before starting regular courses alongside the German students beginning in October.

For spring semester, students need to complete at least German 3 by the end of the fall semester prior to departure, then attend a shorter pre-ILP in January in Berlin to complete German 4, then stay for the ILP that leads up to the beginning of regular courses in April.

If you will have completed German 4 before departure, then you don’t need to participate in the pre-ILP; if you will have completed an upper division course taught in German, then you can skip the ILP as well. But you’re welcome to participate in the pre-ILP and/or ILP if you wish.

At first, taking regular courses taught in German might seem daunting, but gradually your German skills will improve sufficiently for you to do well in your classes. Every year, many UC students accomplish this and by the end of the semester or year are quite proficient at a high academic level. You can do it, too! This can serve you well if you go on to graduate school and want to do research in German-speaking areas, or if you want to do business of any kind in Germany or other parts of the world.

Spending a full year in Germany allows your German skills to develop to a very high degree, plus it enables you to get to know the country and culture more deeply. You’re more likely to make close friendships by staying for a year, as well.

If you can’t participate for an entire year, it’s still possible to do half a year of regular coursework. Fall semester is problematic unless you are a graduating senior, because it continues on until March, so other students would encounter the problem of missing spring semester back at Cal. The spring semester would be a better option for students who don’t want to miss two semesters here.

All fall and year immersion options have an early January application deadline. All spring options have an early April application deadline.

For all of these immersion options, junior status (56 units including AP) and a GPA of 2.85 overall and in your German language courses are required.

Like most students, you’ll probably live in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft), which is an apartment shared with German students. That way you can practice the German you will have worked so hard to learn.

So no matter what your class level, language level, or major, you’ll find a UCEAP option that can help you to get first-hand experience in Germany. What are you waiting for? Just click onto the UCEAP website to see photos, read student comments, and to get additional information. Go for it!

Please contact me for all questions about UC’s Education Abroad Program.

-Scott McElhinney, UC Berkeley Study Abroad Adviser for Germany